As I am getting ready to attend my favorite writer’s conference, I need to remind myself of how to get the most from the experience. You’d think by now that I’d have it down pat, but because I am essentially a shy person at heart, I need to keep in mind all the tips that I’m going to share.
First of all, come prepared. Make sure you have paper and pens for notetaking. If reading materials have been provided, make sure that you have read them!
Convince yourself that no matter how shy you are, don’t sit there with your mouth shut. If you have questions, ask them. If you want to make a comment, do so. Introduce yourself to total strangers. Walk up to them or lean over when seated and give your name, ask theirs, ask what they’re working on and share your work as well.
Participate whenever there is an opportunity to do so. If there are panel discussions, ask one clarifying question. If there is a chance to read, do so. If you can submit a work for critique, so it.
Step outside your genre whenever possible. While you might not write poetry, you can learn something. Maybe memoir is not your thing, but they might talk about pace, backstory, and dialogue, things you need to relearn.
Take advantage of any opportunities to meet one-on-one with professionals, even if it means paying for the privilege. This is your chance to solicit advice from the very people who are there looking for new clients.
After the conference is over, stay in touch with friends you meet there. I have been blessed to have several good friends that I met at the same conference that I am going to this week. Many of us have been meeting regularly over a period of five years. It’s been a blessing that’s worth every moment spent on the road to see them.
Lastly, don’t feel that you have to do everything offered. You can’t pop into every session for a few moments and think you can walk away with gems that will influence your work. Be reasonable and make the best choices that you can. If it works out, great. If it’s not working and there’s a break, don’t be afraid to walk out. Your time is valuable.
You also need time to rest. Learning is exhausting. If you are too tired to process, go back to the hotel or go for a walk. It’s okay.
I hope this helps you as much as it helps me. Now I am ready!